Pac-12 M5: 03.01.13 Edition

Posted by PBaruh on March 1st, 2013

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  1. Abdul Gaddy has failed to meet expectations at Washington. Gaddy came out of Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma after averaging more than 25 points per game there. He had a subpar freshman year but was improving in his sophomore campaign and appeared as if he was about to turn a corner when he tore his ACL midway through the season. In Gaddy’s first three seasons as a Husky, he averaged no more than eight points a game, but the senior has averaged 11 points and three rebounds per game, both career highs, this year. Ultimately, unless Gaddy can lead the Huskies to the NCAA Tournament by capturing a Pac-12 Tournament title, it’s likely his career at Washington will be viewed largely as a disappointment.
  2. Despite not having any previous head coaching experience, Bob Cantu might be in good position to stay at USC full time as the head coach after his interim year. Although athletic director Pat Haden has interviewed some other candidates, Cantu has certainly done a great job thus far for USC after taking over for Kevin O’Neill. A Pac-12 Tournament title would likely solidify Cantu as the guy at USC and that’s not entirely out of the question. Cantu has coached the Trojans to a one-point loss to Oregon, a win on the road against UCLA, and most recently to a home win against Arizona, showing that USC can play with the best in the conference. As Colorado proved last year, winning four games in four days isn’t impossible and USC might just be the team to accomplish that feat this year.
  3. UCLA beat Arizona State on Wednesday night, but Shabazz Muhammad suffered a sprained ankle in the victory. Muhammad said it was minor and that he should be fine, but the talented freshman is also dealing with pink eye. Neither problem is expected to keep Muhammad out of UCLA’s game against Arizona on Saturday. The Bruins are also dealing with an injury to Travis Wear as he missed his second straight game Wednesday because of a sprained foot. Head coach Ben Howland hopes to have Wear back for the Arizona game too, but he is still listed as day-to-day.
  4. After Arizona’s loss to USC on Wednesday, Oregon is now in prime position to win the Pac-12. With the Ducks’ win over Oregon State last night, they now just have to win their last two games to claim the crown because Oregon has already beaten UCLA to own the tiebreaker. Barring a loss next weekend at Colorado or Utah, Oregon could be heading to Vegas as the #1 seed and will continue to improve with Dominic Artis returning to full health.
  5. Sean Miller said Wednesday night’s defensive play against USC was the Wildcats’ worst performance of the year. Arizona allowed USC to shoot 58 percent in the first half and an even better 65 percent in the second half. The Trojans had five players who scored double figures and at one point the defense was so poor that Miller switched to a zone defense halfway through the second half. The claims at midseason that Arizona was overrated look on point right now. The Wildcats are just 3-5 against the top seven teams in the Pac-12 and are struggling on defense at a very the worst possible time of the year.
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Pac-12 M5: 02.28.13 Edition

Posted by PBaruh on February 28th, 2013

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  1. Jordan Adams has been great offensively this season for UCLA, but he’s also unexpectedly taken on the role of defensive stopper for the Bruins. Adams has guarded top Pac-12 players Allen Crabbe, Mark Lyons, and C.J. Wilcox so far this year and has been relatively successful. Crabbe shot 16-of-37 with Adams guarding him for two games while Wilcox had 14 points on 15 shots and Lyons had 17 points on 16 shots. The freshman also leads the Bruins with 53 steals and has done a great job not letting his tough defensive assignments affect his offensive performance. Adams is the second leading scorer for the Bruins at 15.1 points per game and although he wasn’t the most notable player from UCLA’s highly regarded recruiting class, he’s certainly making his presence known in Westwood.
  2. With the postseason nearing, Sean Miller wanted Arizona to put forth a more consistent defensive effort after Saturday’s win over Washington State. The Wildcats let the Cougars cut a 22-point lead in half and were fouling too much rather than playing great defense. Miller noted the team’s positioning on the court was a major reason for the excessive fouling. His message wasn’t received, though, against USC last night. Arizona gave up 89 points in its loss to the Trojans, allowing them to shoot 61 percent from the field and 60 percent from beyond the arc. Miller said he wants his team to strive for more than just a Pac-12 regular season championship and will need better defensive efforts from his team to accomplish something greater, but as of right now, it doesn’t look as promising for Arizona.
  3. Dominic Artis plans to return tonight for Oregon’s game against Oregon State. The freshman won’t play a lot according to head coach Dana Altman, but he did say his playing time could increase during the game depending on how Artis feels. Artis has missed the past nine games and the Ducks certainly haven’t played their best during that period, going 5-4 in his absence. Prior to Artis’ injury, the Ducks hadn’t lost in the Pac-12 and were 18-2 overall with him in the starting lineup. Johnathan Loyd will still start tonight despite Artis’ return, but by the Pac-12 Tournament, he should be back in the starting lineup.
  4. Colorado is finally gaining some momentum on the road. After a 1-4 start away from home this year, the Buffs’ were riding a two-game winning streak away from the Coors Event Center heading into their match-up last night at Stanford. The Buffaloes extended that streak to three with their 65-63 win over the Cardinal. It’s been better defense and the play of Andre Roberson and Spencer Dinwiddie that has propelled the Buffaloes to their newfound successes on the road. Last year, Colorado limped into the Pac-12 Tournament by losing three out of its last four games. This year, however, seems different as the Buffs are winning on the road late in the season and have a very good chance to do the opposite of last year and win three out of their last four.
  5. Although nothing has seemed to go right for the Beavers this season, Roberto Nelson has provided some great play for Oregon State this season. In Pac-12 contests, Nelson is the team’s leading scorer with 18.6 points per game and he is the only Beaver to start every game this year. He’s also second in the conference with 134 free throws made. Nelson knows that his job is to score, but he also knows he needs to be a leader on this team. With the Civil War taking place tonight, Nelson will have a chance to become the 38th player to score 1,000 points in Oregon State history, and with the Beavers at 3-12 right now in the Pac-12, at least there’s something OSU fans can get excited about.
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Pac-12 M5: 02.27.13 Edition

Posted by PBaruh on February 27th, 2013

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  1. The Pac-12 is having one of its best seasons in several years and with only two weeks to go, its two most prestigious programs — UCLA and Arizona — are squaring off to help determine the champion. Cal coach Mike Montgomery believes the common perception around the league is that if the Bruins and Wildcats struggle, the league is down, and if they have success, the league is up. His team is trying to change that mentality, however, as the Bears are playing the best basketball in the conference as of late. Cal is now projected to be in the NCAA Tournament and has risen more than any other team in most NCAA Tournament projections. Although UCLA and Arizona are always the expected conference teams to play deep into March, Cal’s recent run of play has them challenging that perception as well as the top of the conference.
  2. Oregon’s impact freshman Dominic Artis might play sooner than expected as he practiced without a boot on his foot for the first time in a month yesterday, and head coach Dana Altman plans for Artis to log some minutes against Oregon State on Thursday night. Artis’ minutes will be limited against the Beavers, but will gradually increase each game with the ultimate goal that the point guard is playing at full strength in the Pac-12 Tournament.
  3. Tad Boyle isn’t the only one who thinks he has the best defensive player in the country. Last week Boyle said that Andre Roberson was the best defensive player in the Pac-12 and the entire country, and this week Arizona head coach Sean Miller agreed. Miller noted that Roberson’s ability to guard more than one position and great players like Solomon Hill and Allen Crabbe shows how versatile and good he is at locking players up. Miller also mentioned that Roberson reminded him of Dennis Rodman in the sense that he can impact the game so much without scoring. Although Roberson isn’t the unquestioned best defensive player in the country, his numbers certainly back up his success. Roberson leads the nation in rebounding at 11.8 rebounds per game, paces the Pac-12 with 2.27 steals per game, and is seventh in the league with 1.42 blocks per game.
  4. As the regular season comes to a close in the Pac-12, there are certainly a few coaches on the hot seat. At this point, it’s not a foregone conclusion that any coach will be fired, but three in particular are dangerously close to getting relieved of their duties. Oregon State’s Craig Robinson, Washington State’s Ken Bone, and Stanford’s Johnny Dawkins all have had little success as the leaders of their programs. Robinson’s team stands at 3-12 in the Pac-12 and unless the Beavers win two out of their last three games, Oregon State will finish with the fewest wins in Robinson’s tenure in Corvallis. Ken Bone has struggled in Pullman, posting a 24-47 conference record since he has been at the helm. And although Johnny Dawkins hasn’t had any particularly bad seasons, he’s just not cutting it for a program with the history and resources of Stanford. A team that once made the NCAA Tournament 13 times in 14 years under Mike Montgomery is now poised to miss the NCAA Tournament for the fifth consecutive year. Meanwhile, Bay Area rival California (with Mike Montgomery heading the program) is close to clinching its fourth NCAA appearance in the last five seasons.
  5. At one point, USC had Solomon Hill, Lamont Jones, and Derrick Williams committed to play basketball in Los Angeles. Then Tim Floyd left and the downward spiral ensued. Thankfully, the Trojans will be reminded of one part of that colossal mistake after tonight when Solomon Hill and Arizona take on USC for the last time. Hill has been a terrific player his entire career in Tucson and will be starting his 78th consecutive game for the Wildcats. The multi-dimensional forward presents many problems for defenses as he can shoot from the outside as well as score down low. There will always be the thought of what could have been for Hill and the Trojans, but for now the senior will focus on beating USC one last time.
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Pac-12 M5: 02.26.13 Edition

Posted by PBaruh on February 26th, 2013

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  1. With the chaos continuing in the Pac-12 and no team running away as the favorite, Arizona once again has another chance to control its fate and win a share of the crown. Three weeks ago, when Oregon lost to Stanford and Cal and Arizona swept the Washington schools, the Wildcats found themselves in a familiar position. They blew it then when they lost to the Bears, seemingly ending their chances at the time with Oregon and UCLA ahead of them in the standings. But now the Ducks and the Bruins have done the same, both losing to Cal in the past couple of weeks, setting up a three-way tie for first place. Despite the fact that Arizona owns no head-to-head tiebreakers as of now, a share of a conference title is still within reach.
  2. UCLA took another step toward its ultimate goal with a win over USC on Sunday. The most recent match-up between these two teams couldn’t have been more opposite as USC had defeated UCLA in overtime at Pauley Pavilion, but the Bruins made it apparent on Sunday that this game was going to be very different from the opening tip. UCLA raced out to a 17-4 lead, led by 19 points at half, and never let the Trojans sniff success in the second half. Although the Bruins still have a great shot to win the Pac-12, that isn’t what matters in Westwood. Yes, it’d be nice to have a Pac-12 championship, but it won’t matter if they don’t make some serious noise in the NCAA Tournament with Ben Howland’s job is on the line.
  3. The good news for Oregon is that they still are tied for first place in the Pac-12. The better news is the fact that star freshman Dominic Artis is close to returning from his foot injury and the Ducks only have one game this week, allowing him more time to recover. Even if Artis is unable to go on Thursday night against Oregon State, the Ducks should still be able to take care of the Beavers. And when Oregon travels to take on Colorado and Utah to close out the season on the road, Artis will likely be back, which will be crucial.
  4. Barring an unexpected Pac-12 Tournament championship, Larry Krystkowiak and Utah know the season is close to an end; as a result, the head coach is planning on extending his playing rotation for the final four games of the season. Standout players Jason Washburn and Jordan Loveridge will most likely see less time while freshman Dakarai Tucker is in line to get more minutes. Tucker had eight points in the each of the past two games against Arizona and Colorado and has put forth a strong defensive effort in practice and will be rewarded.
  5. After surprisingly winning seven of its past eight games in the Pac-12 with notable road wins over Arizona and Oregon, Cal is now another team in serious contention for the Pac-12 title, only one game out of first place. With two weeks left in conference play, there are still so many ways this race could pan out, but if Cal wants to finish at the top they’re going to need some help. As far as this week goes, the Bears need Arizona State and USC to beat UCLA and Arizona, respectively, and take care of their own business by beating Utah and Colorado in Berkeley. It won’t be easy though as Colorado needs every win it can get to secure a possible at-large bid, but if the Bears can get through this week unscathed, they’ll be one more step closer to an unexpected Pac-12 title.
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Pac-12 M5: 02.08.13 Edition

Posted by PBaruh on February 8th, 2013

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  1. Despite playing very well on the road against Arizona Wednesday night, Stanford was not happy with what Johnny Dawkins considered a moral victory. The Cardinal fell short to the Wildcats 73-66, but for the majority of the game matched Arizona basket for basket and had a chance to win the game with down the stretch. Dwight Powell said Stanford let up defensively in the end and ultimately were finished after Solomon Hill nailed a three pointer to stretch the lead to four points with three minutes left to go in the game. Even though Stanford could not pull off the upset, they are starting to play up to the level they were expected to at the beginning of the season and proved they can play with anybody in the Pac-12 with their performance in Tucson.
  2. Arizona State’s Jonathan Gilling is out to show that he’s not just a shooter. Although it’s easy to label him that due to the fact that he is second in the Pac-12 making 2.4 three pointers per game, Gilling is providing much more than just shooting this season. After averaging a minuscule 1.8 rebounds as a freshman, Gilling is all the way up to 7.0 rebounds per game in his sophomore campaign. Many will credit Jahii Carson, Carrick Felix, and even Jordan Bachynski for the surprising success of Arizona State, but without Gilling’s overall play, the Sun Devils might not be where they are right now in the Pac-12 standings.
  3. After a slow start to their game against Stanford, Arizona’s Sean Miller is likely to make changes to his starting lineup in their next game against Cal. Miller knows his team isn’t going to be leading after the first media timeout every game, but he wants his players to be confident coming out of the gate. He mentioned someone who always brings the same energy no matter the score is senior Kevin Parrom. Nothing is certain, but if Miller does make a change to his starting lineup for their upcoming game against Cal, it’s likely the senior will be getting the starting nod.
  4. Dana Altman desperately wants his team to cut down on turnovers. With the Ducks getting swept in the Bay Area last week against Stanford and Cal, Altman has been stressing simple play in practice. In their games against Washington, Stanford and Cal, Oregon has committed 65 turnovers, which is more than their field goals made (64) and more than double the amount of assists (30). However, against Colorado, the Ducks only 12 committed turnovers, but lost for the third consecutive game. The Ducks no longer control their fate in the Pac-12 race with three conference losses and need Dominic Artis back as soon as possible.
  5. Oregon State is no longer alone in last place in the Pac-12 and Craig Robinson hopes with their 82-64 victory over Utah on Wednesday night, the Beavers can establish some momentum going into the second half of conference play. The Beavers scored 84 points, 10 more than they had scored in any other Pac-12 game this year, and played their best defensive game of the conference season as well. Although Robinson and Oregon State certainly have been disappointing this year at 2-8 and many have called for Robinson to be fired, there’s still hope. As the past week has proved, anything can happen in the Pac-12 and that could prove very beneficial for Oregon State.
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Pac-12 M5: 02.06.13 Edition

Posted by PBaruh on February 6th, 2013

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  1. At least one UCLA site thinks that Ben Howland‘s time at UCLA is essentially over after this year. But if Dan Guerrero remains athletic director, there’s a slim chance he could stay around. If UCLA were to perform better than expected in the NCAA Tournament — such as a run to the Final Four — the idea is that Guerrero would be inclined keep Howland around. Additionally, Guerrero hasn’t fired Howland yet this year despite some ups and downs from the Bruins. UCLA had its early season struggles, of course, but they were able to turn it around for a little while at least. Now, though, the Bruins have reverted to playing poorly by losing three out of their last four games. If Guerrero is ultimately fired, then Howland would certainly also be replaced by the new athletic director. Whatever the case ends up being, barring a Pac-12 title and a deep NCAA Tournament run, this year could be the end of Ben Howland’s time as UCLA’s head coach.
  2. Shawn Kemp Jr.‘s play down low was a major factor for Washington in its win against Arizona State over the weekend. Aziz N’Diaye suffered an eye injury and was forced to go to the bench for stitches. In came Kemp with a jumper, a dunk, and some precise footwork in the post. The Husky reserve finished with 18 points and six rebounds, but more importantly, he finally looked comfortable for the first time since returning from his patella tendon injury. If Kemp can hit jump hooks in the post and continue to be a threat down low, it could open the floor up for Washington’s guards and propel the Huskies to a strong finish in the Pac-12.
  3. Despite an ejection from Saturday’s game against Washington State, Sean Miller won’t suspend Kevin Parrom. Parrom was dismissed in the middle of the first half for a punch to DaVonte Lacy in the face. Miller said that the officials made the right call in  tossing his player and that he was very disappointed in his senior’s behavior. Parrom is known for being a physical player, but in this case, he lost control and it didn’t benefit him. Ultimately, Miller was displeased with the incident but doesn’t see this as a recurring thing and knows that the Wildcats will need his 8.2 points per game going forward to charge at a league title in the ever-changing Pac-12.
  4. Although Herb Sendek kept his Arizona State team in the locker room later than normal after its weekend loss to Washington to let his team know that they just got out-worked, the Sun Devils’ success cannot be ignored. At the midpoint of conference play, Arizona State is 6-3, something that seemed unimaginable in the beginning of January especially after they were predicted to finish 11th in the league. However, the Sun Devils don’t want to settle for a better than expected finish. Their goal is to make the NCAA Tournament. In Joe Lunardi’s latest bracket projection, Arizona State was one of the last four teams in. But in order to continue their success and stay in the field of 68, the Sun Devils will need to protect their home floor with upcoming games against California and Stanford this week and play well on the road as they finish with five of their last seven away from home.
  5. Oregon’s star freshman Dominic Artis is close to returning from his foot injury. Artis has missed the last three games and his team is just 1-2 in those contests and have committed a dismal 65 turnovers. They lost last weekend to Cal and Stanford and have opened up a Pac-12 race that once heavily favored the Ducks. Oregon’s Johnathan Loyd, who has started in the absence of Artis, is also dealing with an injury and is practicing with a wrap around his hand. Dana Altman wasn’t ready to say that either of them would play Thursday against Colorado, and if neither can go, freshman Willie Moore would get the start.
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What We Learned This Week In The Pac-12

Posted by PBaruh on January 30th, 2013

Here are some takeaways from the week that was in the Pac-12.

Arizona State Isn’t Going Away

The Sun Devils were impressive once again in another week of Pac-12 action by going 2-0 and continuing to win games they weren’t expected to win. First, Arizona State beat USC 98-93 in overtime by holding off a valiant effort from the Trojans. Then, they picked up their biggest win of the season as they were victorious over UCLA. Yes, UCLA was coming off a huge win against Arizona itself and might not have been particularly excited to play the Sun Devils two days later. Even without the presence of Travis Wear, the Bruins still have a lot of talent but that didn’t stop Arizona State from dominating the entire game. The great play of Jahii Carson has obviously been key in Arizona State’s success, but Carrick Felix’s improvement has been important as well. Felix was named ESPN’s National Player of the Week for his 16-point, 1o-rebound effort against USC and his 23-point, 11-rebound effort against UCLA. He is also second on the team in scoring at 15.2 points per game and first in rebounding with 8.2 boards per contest. Without the maturity and improvement of Carrick Felix, the Sun Devils would not be where they are at right now.

Carrick Felix, Arizona State

Carrick Felix has been a big part of Arizona State’s recent success.

Felix and Carson have had the largest impacts, but Arizona State has also been helped out by the strong play of Jordan Bachnyski. The 7’2″ center has been phenomenal on defense in rejecting 4.3 shots per game and blocking 15.6 percent of the shots taken while he is on the floor. He’s also been great at limiting his fouls as he’s only picked up more than three fouls once in conference play thus far and has yet to foul out all season. And he had his most impressive performance of the year against UCLA, with 22 points, 15 rebounds and six blocks in the Sun Devils’ big win.

After two consecutive dismal years in the Pac-12 where Herb Sendek’s team only managed 22 total wins, they’ve finally turned it around. Jahii Carson has been incredible, and Carrick Felix and Jordan Bachnyski deserve a majority of the credit as well. Many thought Arizona State would prove that their strong record before conference play was due to an easy schedule, but the Sun Devils are proving their legitimacy with wins over Colorado and UCLA. Up next, Arizona State is on the road against Washington and Washington State. If they can sweep, Arizona State might no longer be on the bubble and could be looking at a great shot to make the NCAA Tournament and contend for a bye in the Pac-12 Tournament.

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Pac-12 M5: 01.25.13 Edition

Posted by PBaruh on January 25th, 2013

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  1. UCLA had been waiting on Tony Parker to make an impact this season. Fellow freshmen Shabazz Muhammad, Jordan Adams, and Kyle Anderson have all done their part to help the Bruins this season, but Parker had largely struggled mightily to this point. At one point this year, Parker tweeted that he was ready to return to his home state of Georgia and intimated that everyone who told him UCLA was a bad fit was correct. Recently, things have been a little different for Parker as he says he’s fine in Westwood, but the Bruins have only just begun to take advantage of his physicality and presence inside, highlighted by a few decent minutes against Arizona last night. After the departures of Josh Smith and Anthony Stover earlier this season, UCLA has had to work with the Wear twins and Kyle Anderson to bolster its rebounding. Anderson has boarded surprisingly well for the Bruins, but the Wear twins have not improved their rebounding woes. Going forward, if the Bruins want to compete with the bigger teams around the country, they’ll need to have Parker provide the type of presence inside that he did against Arizona.
  2. Despite having the best record in the Pac-12, Matthew Knight Arena hasn’t had the same home court advantage that the Ducks hoped for this year. Oregon’s home court holds 12,346 people and the building had a good showing when the Ducks upset Arizona with 9,554 in attendance. On the other hand, on Wednesday a disappointing 6,946 showed up for the win over Washington State. It could be that the new arena doesn’t have the same feel as the venerable Mac Court; it could be that the fan base is spoiled because of the football team; or, it could be that the fans don’t know all the new faces on this Oregon team. Whatever the case, a team that has the record and talent of Oregon should be hauling in a lot more fans than they are now and eventually that could come back to hurt them.
  3. For the second straight game, Washington allowed its opponent to pick up its first conference win this season. The Huskies lost to Utah on Saturday and followed that up with a defeat on Oregon State Wednesday. The Huskies remain an unknown team in the Pac-12 — they responded to wins over Cal, Stanford, and Colorado with two terrible losses. Washington had extra motivation this week and had said they were out to get revenge on the Beavers for their loss in the Pac-12 Tournament last year, but that wasn’t the case at all; instead, UW allowed Oregon State to jump out to a 10-point lead only four minutes into the game. Ultimately, Lorenzo Romar’s team looks like the most inconsistent team in the Pac-12 and might be wildly up and down all season long.
  4. Oregon State‘s starters have been underperforming all season long and Craig Robinson is letting them know it. In practice, the bench, also known as the “White Team,” was beating the starters. Robinson responded with a simple message to his five: Prove that you deserve to start And that they did. In the second half of the Washington game, Roberto Nelson and Eric Moreland played so well that Robinson sat them for fewer than two minutes combined. Ahmad Starks and Joe Burton each showed they deserved to playing as they sat for less than three minutes. Ultimately, Robinson’s direct message proved to be a big factor in Oregon State’s big win and could have signaled a turning point in the season.
  5. A player at the size of 6’10” is not usually known for his sharp-shooting, but that’s not the case with Stanford’s John Gage. Gage doesn’t score much as he’s only averaging 5.o points per game this season, but he leads the Cardinal in shooting 44 percent from three and has excited his teammates according to Johnny Dawkins. Recently, Gage had a career high 14 points against Cal and continues to provide the Cardinal with some much needed three-point shooting off the bench. If Stanford purports to put a run together at the NCAA Tournament in what has so far been a disappointing campaign, the Cardinal will need Gage’s shooting off the bench.
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Pac-12 M5: 01.24.13 Edition

Posted by PBaruh on January 24th, 2013

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  1. Arizona freshman Brandon Ashley has changed up his defensive game ever since he struggled so much against Utah early in the conference season. Sean Miller mentioned after that Utah game that there was no question Ashley was playing poorly on defense. So Miller threw Ashley into the fire at practice by making him guard Kevin Parrom and Solomon Hill, two physical, versatile players. The results of that were most evident in Arizona’s recent victory over Arizona State when Ashley helped shut down Carrick Felix, who only had five points in Saturday’s contest. Up next for Brandon Ashley is Travis Wear, which certainly won’t be easy, but Sean Miller has faith that the freshman is now up to that task.
  2. When opponents shut down Washington’s C.J. Wilcox, the Huskies cannot find any other ways to score. In Washington’s latest game against Utah, Wilcox was harassed and limited to 2-of-12 from the field and just five points. The issue continues to plague Washington as players like Abdul Gaddy and Scott Suggs are struggling to step up when Wilcox is not playing well. As a team, the Huskies are averaging 69.2 points per game this year which would put them on pace for the lowest scoring output average since Lorenzo Romar took over as the head coach in Seattle.
  3. UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad believes tonight’s game against Arizona is a must-win game. Muhammad made it a point that he is taking it on himself to win this game, and UCLA will need to pick up the slack on the glass if they want to have a chance to pull off the victory at the McKale Center. They were outrebounded 40-31 on Saturday against Oregon, who ranks sixth nationally in rebound margin while Arizona is fifth nationally so things will not be getting any easier for the Bruins. There’s only so much UCLA can do to win the battle of the boards as they don’t have the size and depth to match the Wildcats, but a star performance from Muhammad could eliminate that advantage and give the Bruins the win they need.
  4. The last time Stanford visited the Coors Event Center in Boulder the result was a blowout in Stanford’s favor. The Cardinal left the Colorado crowd in shock after an 84-64 victory late last season. Tad Boyle mentioned that this team is much different than that group and matches up better with Stanford this time around. He noted that the added size of Xavier Johnson and Josh Scott could play a big role as both players were not available to help last year. Both teams need to win to keep pace in the standings of the Pac-12, but Colorado might have the advantage in this one as they will be looking for some revenge for last year’s disappointing defeat.
  5. If Arizona State wants to make the NCAA Tournament, they will need a lot to go right for them the rest of the season. The Sun Devils are 1-2 in their last three games, but those losses were both at the hands of very good teams in Arizona and Oregon. Unlike some other Pac-12 teams, the Sun Devils had an easy non-conference schedule and their only notable win otherwise came against Colorado. A 10-3 finish to the season would make for an appealing case to the Selection Committee, but they will need continued strong play from Jahii Carson and Carrick Felix to make a run at the Dance. The Sun Devils will get another chance to pick up a notable victory this weekend when they take on UCLA.
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What We Learned This Week in the Pac-12

Posted by PBaruh on January 23rd, 2013

Here are some takeaways from the week that was in the Pac-12:

Oregon New Leader of Pac

  • After beating UCLA 76-67 on Saturday, Oregon is now the favorite to win the Pac-12. Without question, the three best teams in the league are UCLA, Arizona and Oregon, in no particular order. Oregon no longer has to play Arizona or UCLA for the rest of the season, though, and they have already won a game each against the other two. On the other hand, the Bruins and Wildcats will play each other twice with one of those games coming this Thursday at the McKale Center in Tucson. Also, Arizona still needs to travel to the Coors Event Center to play Colorado, and the Buffaloes will certainly want to get revenge on the Wildcats after their heartbreaking loss in Arizona to start off conference play. The scheduling factor is a big reason why the Ducks are the favorite now to win the Pac-12, but they also deserve to be the favorite considering their overall play.

    The play of Dominic Artis is just one of several reasons why Oregon sits atop the Pac-12 (Daily Emerald)

    The play of Dominic Artis is just one of several reasons why Oregon sits atop the Pac-12 

  • Oregon has been getting production from every spot on the floor as each starter is averaging over 10 points per game. Their bench has been superb with great play from Johnathan Loyd and Arsalan Kazemi. They have the size to match up with every team in the Pac-12 with Tony Woods and Waverly Austin inside and also have a talented enough backcourt with Damyean Dotson and Dominic Artis on the perimeter. Also, it’s impossible to forget about E.J. Singler despite his inconsistency this year. Going forward, the Ducks take on Washington and Washington State at home, but after that, they’ll have to take a road trip to the Bay Area to play Cal and Stanford. It won’t be easy for them to get a sweep there, but if they can get past that weekend unblemished, the Ducks could very well end up being the surprise Pac-12 champion.

Washington Unknown

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Pac-12 M5: 01.23.13 Edition

Posted by PBaruh on January 23rd, 2013

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  1. For the past couple of years, there hasn’t been a premier team in the Pac-12. UCLA has a history and tradition that no team can match and are usually the most dominant team in the conference, but that hasn’t been true as of late. You might argue that the play of Arizona over the past couple of years has made the Wildcats the cream of the crop in the Pac-12, but aside from their Elite Eight appearance and conference title two years ago, there hasn’t been much in the way of sustained success in Tucson. Currently, though, this seems to be Arizona’s league evident by their #6 ranking in the AP Poll and ability to consistently win this year, something UCLA hasn’t done as well. However, this could all change on Thursday when the Bruins travel to the McKale Center. If they can pick up a key road victory there, order might finally be restored for Bruins fans as this victory would signal that UCLA is back in its rightful spot in the Pac-12 and is there to stay.
  2. Sean Miller finally got his wish when Mark Lyons won Pac-12 Player of the Week after his very successful performance against Arizona State on Saturday. Prior to this week, no Arizona player had won the award despite its high national ranking and multitude of impressive wins. But after Lyons put up 24 points, three assists and three rebounds while outplaying arguably the best point guard in the Pac-12 in Jahii Carson, there was no question Lyons deserved it. Lyons scored 15 of his total points in the second half and was instrumental in a 15-5 Wildcats’ run in the second half.
  3. Does Craig Robinson deserve to be on the hot seat? This is Robinson’s worst start in Pac-12 play in his five years at Oregon State as the Beavers now sit at 0-5. They have had a very tough schedule to start out the conference season, though, and Robinson has said on the record thath this is the best team he’s had at Oregon State. Excuses can be made as OSU lost Angus Brandt to a season-ending knee injury early in the season, but the team’s overall play still has been very lackadaisical and uninspired at times. It certainly doesn’t help that Dana Altman has turned around intrastate rival Oregon in only three years and currently looks like the team to beat in the Pac-12. The bottom line for Beavers fans is that if Robinson can’t turn things around soon, he might be looking for new work after another unsuccessful year.
  4. USC interim coach Bob Cantu has the Trojans playing much better in his short tenure thus far. In Cantu’s first two games as the head coach, the Trojans played Oregon to a hard-fought two-point loss and managed to beat Oregon State by a single point. In both of these games, USC showed resiliency in terms of its competitiveness and fire. Although it’s still early in his tenure and Cantu will need to show sustained consistency the rest of the way, it’s safe to say that USC fans are happy that Kevin O’Neill is no longer in charge of their team.
  5. The last time that Washington played Oregon State it didn’t turn out well for Lorenzo Romar’s team. Washington was the too seed and the Beavers were the ninth seed in last year’s Pac-12 Tournament, yet the Beavers pulled off the upset and ended any chance that the Huskies had of making the NCAA Tournament last season. They’ll play for the first time since then on the road tonight, and C.J. Wilcox says he and the Huskies want revenge. Wilcox believes they’ll play with a chip on their shoulder and extra energy that will help them get back on track after their disappointing loss to Utah on Saturday.
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Pac-12 M5: 01.22.13 Edition

Posted by PBaruh on January 22nd, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. Kyle Anderson might not be the most talented freshman on the UCLA Bruins, but he’s arguably been the most important for Ben Howland this year. Although he was originally projected to play point guard, his ability to play seemingly every position has been a major key to UCLA’s success this year. He’s been very successful on the glass so far in leading the Bruins with 9.1 rebounds per game. Since he has assumed the role of power forward he hasn’t had a game where he’s had fewer than five rebounds, which is great considering the other starting big man, Travis Wear, is only averaging 5.9 rebounds per game. More importantly, Anderson has had nine or more rebounds in a game 10 times this year. Anderson doesn’t bring the same scoring punch as Shabazz Muhammad or Jordan Adams, but he’s providing a necessity for Ben Howland and might just be the most important player come March if UCLA wants to make a national title run.
  2. Oregon is now the only undefeated team in the Pac-12 and Dana Altman believes that his team is very different from how it looked at beginning of the season. There is now a flow in practice and the Ducks are clicking on their way to a seven-game winning streak. They’re also rising in the polls by coming at #16 in the AP Top 25 this week. Altman is keeping his team in check and they all know that there are a lot of games left in the conference season, but all starters are averaging double figures in points and the bench has been excellent, fueled by good post play from the 6’11” Waverly Austin and hustle play from guard Johnathan Loyd. It’s hard to find a flaw with this team right now and that’s not good news for the rest of the Pac-12.
  3. Sean Miller is all about being direct. Miller preaches the truth and is a no-nonsense guy. His postgame speech after the Wildcats’ victory over Arizona State on Saturday was just plain honest. A notable quote from the talk to his team: “Wow, is it this hard on the road? Yes, but it’s also that rewarding.” It wasn’t a long speech not even topping two-and-a-half minutes, but it was engaging and got the point across. Miller doesn’t waste time and you can see his team is always motivated to play and it’s in certainly in part because of how well he communicates with his players.
  4. Larry Krystkowiak was very pleased after Utah’s win over Washington this weekend, as the Utes picked up their first-ever road conference win in the Pac-12 and first win overall in the conference season. During practice, Krystkowiak has been stressing urgency. The Utes have been playing every possession as if it is “game point” no matter if the team is on offense or defense, and that urgency was evident as Utah sparked out to a 12-2 lead early in its game against Washington. There is certainly a positive vibe surrounding this squad now, but they cannot let this win distract them with Cal and Stanford coming to Salt Lake City to play on Thursday and Sunday, respectively.
  5. Although Craig Robinson’s Oregon State team has struggled this year once again, now last in the Pac-12 at 0-5, at least off the court Robinson is still enjoying himself. Robinson was at President Barack Obama’s inauguration yesterday and was caught at one point photo-bombing his famous brother-in-law. It might not have been intentional, but at least Robinson is making news that happens to not be about the Beavers’ poor play.
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